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Monday, April 1, 2013
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"What The World Calls 'Foolish'"
"For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18). "And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by His own power" (1 Corinthians 6:14).
Yesterday we awakened very early to attend an Easter service at 7 am in a Russian Church where our friend, Yelena, attends. We visit her office weekly in the course of our chaplain work, and she had invited us to join them this particular Sunday. I think we were the only non-Russian speaking attendees so we were provided a listening device and the service was translated for us through earphones.
I noticed a lettering on the left front wall and did my best to translate it intuitively based on the day and sure enough I was right. It's the message in our lead photo today and it states in Russian, "Christ Risen Indeed". The Russian language does not use the word "is" so they didn't make a mistake but purposely stated "Christ Risen Indeed!" I'm so thankful for the emphatic statement of our Lord's resurrection!
A custom in many of our English-speaking churches on Easter is the proclamation by the Pastor "Christ is Risen" to which the congregation heartily responds, "He is risen indeed". An interesting custom in the Russian church is that the church people quickly stand up to respond in Russian "He is risen indeed" and then immediately sit again. Since we had a lag in the translation we probably looked pretty klutsy as we stood up as the rest of the congregation was sitting down!
We very much enjoyed the service and experienced a spiritual kinship with our fellow Russian believers and appreciated the messages focusing on the resurrection. We will share more about our experience yesterday along with photos below our message.
But we did miss our own church and the Resurrection day songs we are accustomed to singing in English. After the service we were listening to WDAC, our local Christian radio station, and heard the distinctive voice of James Boice preaching an Easter message. He is now with the Lord but they still broadcast his messages on the Bible Study Hour.
He shared how many in the world respond to the message of the Cross and Resurrection with an attitude of "So What?". Surely we have all seen the sacredness of Easter diminish greatly in our lifetime. In our younger years it seems that, even among the less than devoted, it was still seen as a special holy day. But now many give virtually no attention to the spiritual meaning of the day. That's why polls that show a strong majority of Americans still believe in the resurrection of Christ are so baffling.
James Boice asserted for the earnest believer the response to the resurrection of Jesus Christ will not be "So what" but "So everything!" That's is so true. It is the bedrock or cornerstone of the Christian faith.
Interestingly, this year April Fool's Day follows Resurrection Day. In our first daily text Paul wrote, "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God" (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Consider the attitude of the world toward the preaching of Christ, the cross and particularly the resurrection as foolishness. Many intellectual elites scoff at such a notion of Jesus rising from the dead and, without doing honest research, dismiss it as "foolish" beliefs from an ancient time period no longer important today. But to those of us who believe and are saved it is the power of God!
On the wall opposite the Russian declaration, "Christ Risen Indeed!" is a Scripture verse declaring in Russian, "And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power." The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a central tenet of New Testament theology and is testified to in each of the Gospel accounts, the apostolic preaching in Acts, in each of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. Paul states that it is "of first importance" (1 Corinthians 15:3).
One of the great resurrection songs of the Church is the Charles Wesley classic many of you sang yesterday, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today!" We may sing the song considering "today" to be the original resurrection Sunday. But we do well to consider the glorious significance of Christ's resurrection today and every day!
Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber
Daily prayer: Father, we greatly rejoice that our Lord is risen. He is risen indeed! Therefore we walk in the resurrected power of Jesus Christ who gives us power to take our stand against the enemy and to stand up for righteousness and truth. Because You raised up Jesus in power You also raise us up by Your own power so that we are not dependent on our own wisdom or strength but we are able to conquer every foe by the power You grant to us through Christ Jesus our Lord in whose name we pray. Amen.
Easter service in a Russian Church
The Russian congregation now meets in a meeting house we assume had been a Mennonite congregation at one time based on the style of the structure.
The adult choir sang magnificently throughout the service. We could understand their message only through an interpreter who translated the service from the back of the church. We listened through special earpieces which is a nice courtesy.
Our friend Yelena directed the Youth Orchestra. The children are quite gifted and remained poised throughout the service.
Children, from Sunday School classes, shared Easter themed poetry and songs about the resurrected Lord (all from memory). Yelena shared that the children are given this opportunity often to help them in being able to give expression to their faith in front of others; they were not timid at all. Learning to do it as children makes it easier as adults. I (Brooksyne) say a hearty "Amen" to this practice and have done it many times over the years as well. (In addition it's delightful to see the parent's loving pride toward their child.)
Following the church service members signed petitions to release their brethren from the homeland where they are undergoing persecution. We were pleased to add our signatures to the petitions. Notice the young family in the background having their photo taken (coincidentally it is Yelena's sister's family). The church has a larger percentage of children and youth than any we have attended.
Peter and Yelena are a young couple in their mid-twenties who were married over two years ago. They are expecting identical twins due in four months.
Following the service we joined Peter and Yelena in their new spacious home. She prepared a delicious meal, some of it of Russian origin.
Note: We attended a Harvest service in this same church last fall and shared a description and more photos here.
Note regarding the lettering on the walls: These Scripture messages were made by Peter's sister cut out of styrofoam. She prints out the letters from a computer, then cuts them out and uses them as a stencil on a piece of styrofoam. She then cuts the letters from the styrofoam and spray paints them, finishing with glitter. They stood out beautifully against the white wall.
A few more photos of our weekend:
My sister Genelle sent me this photo from about fifty years ago. We were dressed up for Easter services and apparently I had gotten a baseball glove and she got an Easter bunny! We both look pretty satisfied!
Imagine my surprise when I opened my refrigerator to recover the "sunflower" cake I made for Easter and it looked more like a muddy pond with little peeps sliding down the hillside. My creativity plunged, but most importantly, it didn't change the good chocolate taste of the cake. The peeps candy shown in the photo are made in Bethlehem PA. Stephen drove by the plant on Stefco Boulevard last Friday. Peeps candies were originally made here in Lancaster County!
Today's Suggested Music and Supplemental Resources
"Christ The Lord Is Risen Today"
Video Joslin Grove Choral Society (traditional version)
Video Brookwood Praise Choir
Video Steve Green
We typically sing only a few of the verses from the whole hymn. How many are you familiar with?
1. "Christ the Lord is ris'n to-day,"
Sons of Men and Angels say!
Raise your Joys and Triumphs high,
Sing ye Heav'ns, and Earth reply.
2. Love's Redeeming Work is done,
Fought the Fight, the Battle won,
Lo! our Sun's Eclipse is o'er,
Lo! He sets in Blood no more.
3. Vain the Stone, the Watch, the Seal;
Christ hath burst the Gates of Hell!
Death in vain forbids his Rise:
Christ hath open'd Paradise!
4. Lives again our glorious King,
Where, O Death, is now thy Sting?
Once He died our Souls to save,
Where thy Victory, O Grave?
5. Soar we now, where Christ has led,
Following our Exalted Head,
Made like Him, like Him we rise:
Ours the Cross; the Grave; the Skies.
6. What tho' once we perish'd All,
Partners of our Parent's Fall,
Second Life we All receive,
In our Heav'nly Adam live.
7. Ris'n with Him, we upward move,
Still we seek the Things above,
Still pursue, and kiss the Son,
Seated on his Father's Throne;
8. Scarce on Earth a Thought bestow,
Dead to all we leave below,
Heav'n our Aim, and lov'd Abode,
Hid our Life with Christ in God!
9. Hid; 'till Christ our Life appear,
Glorious in his Members here:
Join'd to Him, we then shall shine
All Immortal, all Divine!
10. Hail the Lord of Earth and Heav'n!
Praise to Thee by both be giv'n:
Thee we greet Triumphant now;
Hail the Resurrection Thou!
11. King of Glory, Soul of Bliss,
Everlasting Life is This,
Thee to know, thy Pow'r to prove,
Thus to sing, and thus to love!
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